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Mainstream, Vol XLVI No 1

Ray of Hope


Tuesday 25 December 2007, by SC


As Mainstream completes fortyfive years of its chequered life there is no gainsaying that the world has changed beyond recognition from the time it made its appearance in 1962.

Mainstream’s birth almost synchronised with the first and till date only major aggression the country was forced to withstand. In the wake of that momentous development India suffered a severe jolt and its unity and integrity were severely undermined. What is more, there was a distinct possibility of the government being forced to give up its cherished policy of non-alignment. However, Jawaharlal Nehru’s last memorable act was to ensure that the country does not have to experience such an eventuality even as we were compelled to accept Western military assistance albeit for a brief period.

Since then there have been numerous ups and downs, manifold problems and difficulties but the country has remained united and its strength has grown over the years. Side by side efforts to unite the progressive, secular, democratic forces for national advance and regeneration—one of the prime objectives of this journal—have registered some headway while also recording grave setbacks. The rise of the communal forces at the centre-stage of national politics was the most eloquent commentary on the failure of the forward looking elements upholding the legacy of the freedom struggle to jointly ward off this potent danger to our national survival. Thankfully the realisation has belatedly dawned on large sections of our people that the Centrist and Left forces must come together to fight this common menace that constitutes the bulwark of Right Reaction in the country today.

However, what seems to be missing is the ideological foundation of the common understanding and unity of the Centrist and Left forces—laid during the freedom struggle regardless of all differences and misgivings. Gandhiji’s egalitarian ideas—selfless service for the upliftment of the Daridranarayan in parti-cular—and Jawaharlal Nehru’s holistic approach to the nation and the world built that foundation. Unfortunately today that foundation has ceased to exist. The near-total absence of Left Congressmen who stood by the Gandhi-Nehru paradigm and the departure from the scene of Left stalwarts who advocated close cooperation with the Congress for the purpose of national regeneration in the long-term perspective have caused havoc with philistines and operators running the show all around us. Consequently it is not ideology but realpolitik and adhocism that prevails in any Centrist-Left arrangement turning the whole affair into a marriage of convenience.

Of greater danger is the jettisoning of the ‘welfare state’ project at the altar of globalisation, the Avadi session’s call for a ‘socialistic pattern of society’ in the Nehruvian era having long been abandoned thanks to the surrender of progressive elements to the politics of expediency. As a result the economic scene presents a frightening spectacle—no doubt India is shining for the rich and upward mobile burgeoning middle class plush with new-found wealth as outwardly India’s enviable GDP growth creates illusions of the country’s fast acquisition of a major global power status; but at the other end there is pitch darkness for the nation’s teeming millions—the poor, the disprivileged, the hungry and starving citizens—comprising the bulk of our society, punctuated by the “mounting tide of Dalit assertion and tribal upsurge... on the one side and the incessant Maoist offensives in the most backward regions on the other”, as was aptly underscored in these columns a year ago in Mainstream Annual 2006. In the last one year this phenomenon, reflecting the ever widening disparities in our socio-politico-economic landscape, has become far more pronounced than at any time in the past, the tall talk of ‘inclusive growth’ proving to be just a ploy to hoodwink the public.

It is in this background that one finds the increasing assertion of communal identities of both the Hindu and Muslim varieties. The Narendra Modi brand of Hindutva mirrors Hindu fascism in action propagating raw anti-Muslim sentiments that gain popular endorsement in rabble-rousing rallies. Narendra Modi’s full approval of Sohrabuddin Sheikh’s encounter killing is a shocking reminder of the depths to which we have sunk since the days of not just Jawaharlal Nehru but his daughter Indira Gandhi as well, even if one does not underestimate the Emergency interlude as just an aberration. And as Hindu and Muslim communalists feed on each other, Modi’s Muslim version is not far to seek, the wanton attacks on Taslima Nasreen (to which even the Left Front seems to have succumbed in West Bengal) giving full expression to fanatical Muslim outbursts seldom witnessed with such vehemence except during the pre-partition communal conflagration.

But what about the horrendous events in Nandigram in Left-ruled West Bengal? It is blatantly immoral, as sections of the CPM and its followers are doing, to remain silent on the Nandigram massacre of 2007 while justifiably shouting hoarse against the Gujarat carnage of 2002, for what happened in both places is an assault on humanity beyond all other considerations. Any amount of distinformation campaign by bringing in the non-existent ‘Maoists’ into the picture will not wash—since the fascist proclivities of the CPM in power have become more than transparent before its own sympathisers and fellow-travellers in the State if not the nation as such. At the same time, when it comes to such terms as ‘governance’ and ‘development’ there is very little to choose between parties of the Centre, Left and Right wherever they enjoy the fruits of power. This is seen in Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee’s eagerness to set up an SEZ for a chamical hub with the Salem Group of Indonesia, in Navin Patnaik’s keenness to install a similar SEZ for a steel plant with the POSCO of South Korea, and in Vilasrao Deshmukh’s desire for an SEZ with the Reliance at Navi Mumbai. In all three cases it is the common people who are at the receiving end—their sources of livelihood are in peril. So the aam aadmi gets a raw deal not merely from the BJP-led NDA but also at the hands of the Sonia-Manmohan dispensation catapulted to the seat of the Union Government by none else but him and even the Left Front in West Bengal led by the CPM pledged to defend, protect and promote the interests of the downtrodden and the vulnerable.

Over and above these probems that make the unity of all progressive and forward-loking elements far more complex than in the past, we have the Indo-US nuclear deal finalised by the Manmohan Singh Government with the George W. Bush Administration in Washing-ton, a document that in every possible way seeks to circumscribe the country’s sovereignty.

In this setting what is most reassuring is the resistance of the ordinary men and women—in the areas earmarked for SEZs in particular. In places like Nandigram their superhuman courage and resilience show that they will not be terrorised into submission before fascist onslaughts of any complexion. It is not difficult to comprehend that this resistance is part of the anti-globalisation campaign against neo-liberalism witnessed in the West, the US included.

In the wake of the forbidding challenges we face in all fronts, it is this resitance which offers a ray of hope just as the people’s stirrings at the grassroots in different nooks and corners led by selfless activists convey an unequivocal political message that the masses cannot be suppressed for long, they are bound to rise for their own survival. And it is these upsurges and uprisings which will forge unity in the ranks of the people at large for a better tomorow directed as they will be against economic predators, political manipulators and social obscurantists in due course. Mainstream renews its resolve to stand by this movement and help sustain as well as advance it to the best of its ability in the days ahead.

December 18 S.C.

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